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Mid Staffs nursing director says it will take two years to change trust culture

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Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust nursing director Colin Ovington has had to create an entire cadre of nurse leaders to put right the mistakes identified by the Francis Inquiry report, since he took up post nine months ago.

Speaking to Nursing Times last week he said: “You have to understand where the hospital was at in those dark days in terms of nurse leadership.

“There weren’t any ward sisters, there were floor managers who managed a number of wards – so in a way we were denuded of nurse leaders. It’s hard to imagine if you were a ward nurse and wanted to be a ward sister or matron, where you would look. It’s a major leap to manage a ward, let alone a number of wards.”

He said: “I’ve now got a team of ward sisters and eight matrons in place, but now we need to identify the leaders of the future.”

Identifying leaders is part of Mr Ovington’s overall strategy to improve nursing care at Mid Staffs.

Since June last year, he has implemented quarterly meetings with matrons and ward sisters in a “professional forum”, rewritten the trust job descriptions for matrons, begun a leadership programme called “leading the way”, and sought input from nurses to a nursing strategy. He hopes to publish the strategy in May.

He is also using the nursing indicators he inherited at the trust – covering basic care such as turning patients, checking fluid levels, ensuring patients are comfortable, and reducing pressure sores – which he says, “forms part of the story” of the standard of nursing care.

By also monitoring other factors, such as the use of bank nurses and the number of complaints received, he said he will be able to “triangulate” to get a full picture of how each ward is working on a monthly basis.

Indicators at the trust, such as mortality rates, have improved – suggesting the level of nursing care has improved at the trust. But Mr Ovington said it requires constant hard work.

He said: “We are changing things day by day, but we’re not always sustaining things. We have to go back to things again and again, and make sure that they stick.”

Mr Ovington told Nursing Times he estimated it would take two years, minimum, to change the culture of nursing at the trust.

He said: “That’s not to say that things have not improved significantly, they jolly well have, and I now get more compliments from patients than complaints. But while the [public] inquiry continues to pick at the sore, it will be difficult to win the hearts and minds of the staff and the public who use the hospital.”

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